Derrick White continues heater as Celtics burn Cavs in Game 1

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BOSTON — After Derrick White became the fifth player in NBA postseason history to make at least 20 3-pointers over three consecutive games, he was asked if he feels like he’s in a rhythm.

“I’d say so,” White said with a smile after scoring 25 points to lead the Boston Celtics to a 120-95 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Tuesday night.

“It feels good … I just want to help us win.”

White certainly did that in Game 1. He continued his shooting barrage to begin these playoffs by going 7-for-12 from deep — including 4-for-6 in the third quarter, when he scored 14 points — to improve to 20-for-37 (54%) over Boston’s past three playoff games.

He’s the fifth player to make 20 or more 3-pointers over a three-game span in the postseason, joining Stephen Curry (three times), Klay Thompson (2016), Jamal Murray (2020) and Damian Lillard (2021 and 2024 combined).

White’s latest stretch of hot shooting was more than enough to put away the game for the Celtics, who improved to 5-1 in these playoffs with a game that mostly felt more like one in November or December than the first week of May.

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla was asked how much White being aggressive with his shot helps Boston’s offense overall.

“It’s important because it means, usually the shots he takes are because we’re either out in transition, we’ve set really good screens and he has that, or there’s 2-on-1s and we’re making extra passes,” Mazzulla said.

“So I think when those guys get more and more shots, it means we’re getting to the different layers of our offense, which is important against a team like this.”

It also played a part in opening up the floor for Jaylen Brown, who finished with 32 points on 12-for-18 shooting to go along with six rebounds, two assists and just a single turnover. Brown and White powered a Boston offense that more or less was able to do what it wanted against a Cavaliers team that was barely 48 hours removed from surviving a rock fight of a Game 7 against the Orlando Magic.

“There’s a lot of areas we can improve on,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “I thought the guys came out with the right intent and the right effort. Facing a team like Boston, I think it’s good to be able to play them. You’re not used to the speed, the spacing, the shooting and all those things until you get up against them especially coming from a series we just came from that was more of a half-court slugfest where they play with more tempo, more space.

“We’ll learn from it, and we’ll be better on Thursday.”

The Cavaliers will need to be to have a chance of making this series competitive. Boston recovered from going 6-for-22 in the first half from distance to pull away from Cleveland after the break despite a 33-point performance from star Donovan Mitchell.

Boston was able to do so, in large part, because of White’s latest impressive shooting performance, just a couple of seasons removed from his struggles from deep during Boston’s run to the 2022 NBA Finals.

“Derrick White has grown,” Brown said. “He’s a new version that we haven’t seen before. He’s put the work in, his body has developed a little bit, he’s got some more playoff experience. And he’s being aggressive, and we urge him to do that more and more down the line.”

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